The Lost Dog Cafe opened in McLean about a year ago adjacent to the Anderson Road Safeway.
In 2011, the Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation (LDCRF) celebrated its 10th anniversary. What began with a couple of restaurant owners with a love for animals, eventually became a nonprofit organization in 2001 based in Arlington. All thanks to the success of The Lost Dog Cafe, known for its gourmet pizza and large selection of beers, and its sister restaurant nearby, The Stray Cat Cafe.
Owners Ross Underwood and Pam McAlwee have been rescuing stray dogs and cats almost as long as they have been in the restaurant business and their efforts continue. At first, it was a few stray dogs needing a place to stay until they could find new homes of their own. Soon, their efforts reached out to dogs who were about to be euthanized in shelters and helped to find loving adoptive families for them. I am thrilled to be one of their adoptive families and a financial supporter.
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview their dedicated Adoption Coordinator and Board Member, Barbara Hutcherson. She noted LDCRF has seen tremendous growth and success in its first 10 years, with more than 17,000 dog and cat adoptions once the final 2011 figures are tallied, this will likely top 18,000. The organization averages 2,000 successful adoptions each year.
"Our adoption events have grown from one every weekend, to 10 events every weekend. The dog adoptions are generally held at PetSmart stores throughout Maryland and Virginia, as well as the Bark! Pawsitive Pet Food boutique in Rockville," Hutcherson proudly reported.
"In addition, we operate three cat adoption centers which are housed in PetSmart stores. The cats are there all week, which is easier on them than going to adoption events, and easier for potential adopters to meet them in a calm setting. Volunteers check on the cats twice a day," she added.
When I asked Hutcherson about their volunteers, she noted they had hundreds of dedicated volunteers who made the organization's success possible. While they do maintain a very small paid staff, which enables the organization to keep a high level of professionalism and ensures continuity of the services provided, the vols do the bulk of the day-to-day work. In fact, their volunteers assist with every aspect of the organization imaginable, from grant writing, fostering and pet taxi to fundraising, graphic design and pet handler at events.
I inquired about their new program "Restorative Justice." In order to rescue more dogs from being put to sleep, LDCRF was in need of more foster homes. The Roxbury Correctional Institution (RCI) in Hagerstown, Md., began working with the LDCRF to implement a program utilizing the prison system and appropriate inmates to serve as foster caregivers to greatly increase the capacity to rescue dogs from the threat of euthanasia. Hutcherson noted many of the inmates in our prison systems will be released back into the community and with this program, the inmates learn valuable life and work skills by helping these dogs.
As for their other accomplishments, the organization has a new fund that was established by Mark Levin, radio host, author of Rescuing Sprite and animal lover extraordinaire. The Pepsi, Griffen & Sprite’s Legacy Gift provides hope to dogs who might not otherwise have a chance at a new life — particularly older dogs and dogs with special needs. Contributions to this fund enable LDCRF to save shelter dogs who need special attention such as dental, surgeries, heartworm treatments, diagnostic testing and more, and who would otherwise be overlooked in crowded shelters. And although their foster program has really grown in the past few years, there is a huge demand for additional foster homes for dogs and cats.
I asked Hutcherson about the challenges ahead in the next 10 years, and she very quickly pointed out that due to the continued poor economy, donations are down. At the same time, with foreclosures and unemployment, pet surrenders are up.
"Pressure on the intake side is enormous. And there is still a great deal of education that needs to be done," she added.
However, she strongly emphasizes how much easier and streamlined the process has become for adopting a rescue dog or cat. With so many choices, whether mixed breed or purebred, so many events and locations, and adoption counselors to assist with the process, everyone considering a new pet should consider the adoption option first.
If you would like to offer support to the Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation, contact Barb Hutcherson at Barbara.Hutcherson@lostdogrescue.org.